Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Raising bilingual children isn't easy!

Anyone who has worked to raise their children to be bilingual or even trilingual in the United States knows it isn't easy. One would think it shouldn't be so difficult. Yet, even for those trying to raise their children to speak Spanish, in a country where Spanish is so widely spoken, will find themselves in an uphill battle. I could not even count the number of times parents have told me that they only speak to their children in their native language but that their children refuse to use the language and only respond in English. This is contrary to the claims of the English Only movement that immigrants do not learn English and stick together in language minority enclaves. While many immigrants continue to use their native language, the children of immigrants tend to grow up with very limited ability in their mother tongue unless there is a well-focused effort to keep children using their home language.

Just like learning to share or use the toilet, parents must be diligent in helping their children to become fully proficient in their native language. Ensuring that your children use the home language is challenging and takes extra work on the part of the parents. However, the benefits are endless. My personal experience comes from the efforts of my husband and I to raise our three trilingual children. Our eldest is now learning a fourth language in high school. Raising children to speak so many languages isn't magic. There are many ways parents can support their bilingual children. I would love to hear from you about your experiences in raising bilingual or trilingual children. What works? How can we help other parents with this challenging task? Your experiences and insight can offer much needed help and inspiration to other parents working towards the same goal.

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